> BrewBase Mobile > Award of Merit 2012

The BrewBase™ Award of Merit is given to the elite, mostly highly admired of newer beers in all classes. To qualify for this award, the label must first receive a perfect 5.0 or 5-bottle rating by the General Editor who compiles ratings from our expert panel. All "Brewbase Fives" are then presented to the original panel and a second panel for consideration in the A.M. award. A voting majority of 75% or higher is required from both panels. Very few make the cut as the most elite, unique, or refined of available labels. The award is limited to labels new to our tastings and must meet all criteria for inclusion in our reviews. Only the highest achievements in the brewing arts will receive this award.

Our Award of Merit is intended to acknowledge, praise, and honor breweries for truly superior, distinguished work in brewing beer and serve as our highest recommendation for our many thousands of readers. The A.M. is an award used worldwide by many organizations to honor distinguished members, alumni, local chapters, new products, films, student projects, and even notable dogs, horses, artwork, and flowers.
Beer as liquid art and the work of many skilled brewers with ingredients assembled from hundreds of similar experts around the world surely deserves an award of this nature.

The BrewBase
Legends award is given to established, market-mature, older labels of similar stellar, worldclass quality - such as Orval, Duvel, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Pilsner Urquell. An Award of Merit or Brewbase Fives winner may be considered for Legends status after 10 or more years on the market. BrewBase Award of Merit and Legends winners become our leading benchmarks or style standards when conducting future evaluations.

Our Award of Merit honorees so far for 2012 are the following:

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale Matured in Port Casks 2008
RATING: 5.0 (Award of Merit 2012)
Manchester, England
Now in March 2012, these mini 9.3 oz. bottles of either Port-aged or Calvados-aged ale are $10.99 or more than a dollar an ounce. ABV is a bold 11.5% as it pours bright golden-amber with a small tan head. The barrel flavors are so smooth and subtle that the caramel notes are like buttery candy. Reviewers here said "CANDYLICIOUS...a real revelation...can someone make this stuff in the US and for less money? Please!" and "This is brew to give to your wine-snob friends who think ale is easy to analyze, simple, and not worth their time...this is elite ale, rich yet makes my month in ale drinking". Here is Haute couture of the liquid world, so dazzling and with only the mere form of things with similar colors and names. This ale is not an ale when Lees put their magic all through and around it. It is a thoroughly different creature, one so silky and glorious. It's elaborate layered notes are accessible to beer fans of all levels of experience. It impresses all and leaves nothing to want...except more. The highest pinnacle, peak of the brewing arts. Award of Merit 2012.

Anchor Brekle's Brown All Malt Single Hop Ale
RATING: 5.0 (A.M. 2012)
San Francisco, California
This unique formula is a tribute by Mark Carpenter to their first Brewmaster Gottlieb Breckle (1871-1888). It was created in 2010, first bottled in 2011. From the glued-on collar sermon I took away "complexity without heaviness". It pours reddish-brown, some haze, and large beige head. Nose is malty, almost of a breakfast cereal toastiness. Citra is the one chosen hop. Munich, 2-row, and caramel are the blended malts. It is citrus-rich and yet malty rich in the finish, tangy and comforting in the space of microseconds. This 6-percenter is supremely refined, a brown that is bright and cheerful at a pleasant pace with due respect to the somber chemistry of malts. Citra hops (only available since 2008) can be sharp (or too light) but they are finely graded here. Citra makes things luminous-fruity more than flowery, medicinal, or bitter. And what a better place to get luminous and fruity than...never mind. Brekles is quite an impressive, individual accomplishment, taking the style to new places, not for being novel alone, but reaching a valuable transformation. This brew has value, true value for education of genuine beer lovers - as well as brewers everywhere who should reconsider their own boring brown ales. There are sure to be 79 copies of this in the works. Here is an extraordinary liquid statement and one both fascinating and quenching of all good malt desires. Hopheads can adore it too and treasure it's focused, monovarietal purity. My final word is...resplendent. Award of Merit 2012.
De Dolle Bos Keun Speciaal Paasbier
RATING: 5.0 (Award of Merit 2012)
The pour is dark yellow to mid-gold, the head fluffy, very aggressive, with small off-white bubbles and lace lasting for minutes. There a crazy brown, buck-toothed rabbit-like cartoon beast on the label for no apparent reason - other than strange fun. But on more research we found that Boskeun means "rabbit of the wood" and so our happy, hoppy, hopping, furry ale-swilling friend now makes more sense - maybe. Paasbier means Easter beer and it showed up in Raleigh NC in March 2012. It is spiced for certain, lightly at first, very somber-malty and cloyingly rich for such a pale-colored beer. The ethanol club is evident from at least the second sip onward. You might close your eyes and imagine it a brown, double Belgian. We are told it was one of the first Easter or Passbiers from Belgian, Slaghmuylder's Paasbier (though just 6% ABV and also more lager-based) being the first of the style to get marketed by most reports. The thick, rich nature comes in part from cane sugar used for bottle refermentation. Pale malts and Golding hops are used.

The nose is of quality Belgian yeast, floral notes (not much from hops) and rich malts with honey and grain come next. Fruit (of yeast not hops) is dreamy, modest to medium bore, more bold in the occasional passage, and something of a pome (apple-pear) blend, balanced to absolute estery perfection. The balance of sweetness, quality sugars, fruit, and grainy-malt density notes is remarkable. The lingering finish is that of mild spice, pepper to some, but I your editor do not find anything so overt as pepper. The head has high-overflow risk so be careful at all temps. Not one drop of this glorious fluid should be missed. Boskeun is a truly remarkable, slow-sipping beer, made by saavy brewmasters, providing a virtuoso performance like nothing else. Amazing PLUS unique are requirements for our Award of Merit and Bos Keun hopped away with facile speed and furry finesse toward that certain conclusion. There are few brews of any style and origin as satisfying as Boskeun. Some of you may grill me for saying this brew might be or should be an apocalyptic experience. I will emphatically say that Boskeun will fall somewhere between highly informative and orgasmically transforming in your pilgrimage to comprehend all that is beer. I would drive for hours to obtain a bottle or chase down one short sip. I would crawl down a dozen rabbit holes and fight off rabid beasts and venomous snakes below the Belgian woodland soils if I knew they had some. Buy it online if you must. Get one or ten in all cases as if your very beer life and future expertise requires it - for it surely does.
Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA
Salt Lake City, Utah
While their forementioned Detour Double IPA came in corked bottles, this label came to us as four 12 oz. bottles for $9.99 (February 2012). This offering is 9.2% ABV, flowing as a semi-transparent, dark brown with a lasting yellowish-cream head. It is also brewed with hemp seed so I hope my boss doesn't hand me a little plastic cup with lid tomorrow. Actually hemp and it's seed lacks the THC or buzz-chemistry of you-know-what. While on the topic of things high and far-out, Dubhe is the Utah State Star (aka Alpha Ursae Majoris) in the Great Bear constellation in front of the Big Dipper near the bowl....not that kind of bowl. And would you know it? Dubhe is pronounced quite conveniently as DOO-bee, another name for hemp's outlaw half-brothers wrapped in paper. The bros sang of Black Water makin' everything all right. Keep on shinin'n. Come dance with this pretty mama all night long. 

The malts are shockingly efficacious for an IPA, loaded with toasted, roasted, semi-choco, and licorice flavors, the hops and hemp bringing up the rear with some sophisticated but sturdy notes; all of them pleasant and glorious. This is a malt-addict's IPA and one a hopaholic can share with them. I recommend a twelve step program or three 4-packs to verify your addiction and serve as a pre-screening tool. This forceful, dark IPA is not so much smooth as tastefully bold, powerful, never crude, surely herbal-malty on the IPA spectrum. Here the hemp seed proves it merit to give sharp differentiation in the recently trendy DIPA market. Alpha Ursae Majoris here is actor bear Gentle Ben, formidable and rare, approachable within limits, and sure to impress and give awe as the finest of it's species. Award of Merit 2012.

Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper (2011)
Orbaek, Denmark
Though dark as a stout, this holiday treat is based on a Belgian style broadly in the Belgian Strong Ale family. The head is light brown, not a tan either, a flavor notes overflowing in spice and quality malts. The finish is semi-dry. Reviewers on our panel proclaimed "love it...there is no better Christmas ale of any name or style" and "love it...perfect+++...a malty-spice feast.". One might even consider it a spiced barleywine, giving the potency of ingredients and ethanol. Others felt is tasted like an Imperial porter blended to a richly spiced Belgian Trippel. Despite being an enigma, this is a coordinated brew and harmonious recipe, full and rewarding in every single sip. Here is a yummy winter treat; a warmer above the usual warming session brews. While reviewers on other sites thought it too sweet, not one party here did, and found it spectacular and flawless down to the last detail. This is an exquisite, carefully refined formula together with a exacting execution in the kettle room. Sir Kringle has never been helped so well.

Previous Award of Merit winners include:

Please visit our main site for their specific reviews.

Copyright 2012. Larry Hatch. All Rights Reserved.